02 May 2010

Another Sunday, Another Lesson

Following the first, another story of faith from Thomas Conant's 1898 Upper Canada Sketches:
During the summer of that memorable year (1843) the Mormons came to the country, in the hope of making converts. At Butterfield's Corners (Taunton) a man named John G. Cannon held forth for several days, sometimes in the open air and again in the houses of those inhabitants who appeared to have leanings that way.

On one occasion, in the midst of a heated harangue out of doors, he raised his right hand and said, "I ask Heaven if this is not true?" at the same time looking upwards. A moment, and the answer came from above, in a deep bass voice, "It is true," thus startling the audience almost into belief. Again, on making the assertion that the golden tablets of brother Joseph Smith were inspired, he asked, raising his voice, "Are they?" and again came the deep-voiced reply, "They are." One of the men, listening, declared there must be a man in a hollow basswood tree standing near, and said he would go for his hired man with his axe and have it cut down. "Don't you touch it," the Mormon cried authoritatively; "if you do the Lord will strike you dead." Perhaps half convinced, the man did not have the tree chopped down, the fraud passed, and the Mormon thus scored what appeared convincing arguments.

Quite near this scene a young girl was very sick with a fever, and lay in a state of coma. That he could raise the dead he now gave out, as in the illustration he is represented as doing. And it is only fair to the Mormon to add that after his pressure and manipulations over the girl she did open her eyes and look about.

Several converts were made. Among these a family of the name of McGahan embraced the faith, sold their farm for $4,000, gave the money to the Mormon, and went off to Salt Lake. Another, named Seeleys, also sold all and went, but they could not raise much money.

My father had charged me many times, that if ever I went to Salt Lake I should go and see these people. In 1878 I happened to be in the Mormon centre. From a man cutting stones for the new Mormon tabernacle I enquired for the family. The stone-cutter dropped his mallet as quickly as if shot, and replied that he knew them well, and would get a conveyance and take me to them, twenty-five miles down Salt Lake valley, and assured me of a most hearty welcome.

I did not, however, accept his offer, for, honestly, I confess I was afraid of the Mormons. As a "Gentile" I feared to risk my life among them, and preferred not to leave the protection of United States troops at Camp Douglas.
Related post: A Lesson for Sunday


  1. It wasn't until I reread the first Sherlock Holmes novel as an adult that I realised how scared so many people were of the Mormons. The other day I read a short story by Fitz-James O'Brien, 'My Wife's Tempter', about a sinister man converting women to the wild polygamous world of Mormonism. Not one of O'Brien's best, but a weird insight into the sort of paranoia the incidents you describe must have created.

  2. Interesting to think of those settlers working the land in Taunton (present-day Oshawa) being approached by Mormons. It all must have seemed so very strange. After all, the church was only in its fourteenth year, and those golden tablets were supposedly found in upstate New York. Two hundred kilometres to the southeast, it would've been considered fairly far away in 1843, but not when compared to, say, Jerusalem. Too close for comfort, perhaps.

    I wonder whether John G. Cannon is actually George Q. Cannon, who did in fact travel to Upper Canada in an effort to find converts. I understand he was none too successful.